"Always wear sun block: Sydney is the world capital of skin cancer, swim between the flags and stay away from the spiders." This was Gary's advice before leaving us to our first day in Australia. Twenty four hours later we had already our first meeting with the local fauna. Sara deserves honorary citizenship after the baptism of Tasmanian Sea. After just five minutes on Coogee Beach she was stung by a Bluebottle, a jellyfish (or rather a 'Colony of medusoids' as the sour puff in Wylies Baths pointed out "It's not dangerous!"), known even as 'Portuguese Man O'War'. Forty minutes of screams, ammonia and cortisone later, the child started to finally calm down. Today she is fine again and proudly displays a fire-red bracelet around the lower part of her right leg as an original form of body art. Not bad as a first day, even if it could have been worse... a lot worse in fact!
Despite the fact that they are really everywhere and the most common terror associated with Australia, sharks are responsible of just one fatality per year (apparently all Japanese tourists). As far as flamboyant killers are concerned, Australians talk with much more respect of salties, the crocodiles that live at the estuaries of rivers. A few years ago there was a particularly cranky one somewhere near Darwin. One day, bothered by the engines of big off shores, he bit one and took away the whole back part of the boat. After the incident, they decided to put him to a better use and now he is stuffed and on display in a museum. Into his open jaws can comfortably walk in a man of medium height.
The ones that statistically do the biggest damage are the insects. Amongst my favourites: "Red Back", a small (-ish!) spider belonging to the family of the Black Widow, found in gardens and houses. A single bite will send you to hospital or, failing to find an antidote, to the other world. "Sydney Funnel Web Spider", even worse but they assure me it's not that common to meet one. While the Red Back behaves like a normal spider, biting only when threatened, the Funnel Web is aggressive and often comes for you. The antidote was only recently discovered and since then there haven't been any deaths associated with this spider.
Two more cute marine creatures that will kill you as quick as look at you are the 'Box Jelly Fish", a small one but carrying a mortal venom and the "Blue Ringed Octopus", an octopus that carries enough venom to kill twenty adults in a few minutes. In the right season, both of these creatures are carried to shore by the waves and they can be found on the beach. I start asking myself if we'll be able to survive the next three months!